Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell kept his 2022 NASCAR championship hopes alive by winning the Bank of America Roval 400 at the Charlotte Motorspeedway, on a day when reigning champion Kyle Larson was eliminated from the playoffs.
Bell entered the weekend as a long shot to continue in the playoffs, with the Oklahoma native 45 points away from the cut-off line. However, a smartly executed strategy saw Bell overtake Kevin Harvick on lap 111 and cruise to victory despite not having the fastest car on the day.
The race was a relatively tame affair until lap 103, when a caution was called to recover debris from the circuit.
Bell was able to pass Tyler Reddick at the restart and eventually Harvick to claim a crucial win.
Bell’s victory directly impacted Larson, with the current champion languishing to a 35th-placed finish, and missing out on the playoffs by two points.
Bell hails tyre gamble as reason for win
Despite not having the fastest car on the day, Bell was able to overcome his car’s deficiencies at the Charlotte roval by executing a well-timed tyre strategy.
Credit also has to go to Bell’s crew chief Adam Stevens, who took advantage of two late caution periods by bringing his driver in on lap 105 and enabling him to attack the leaders with seven laps remaining.
“Man, you’ve just got to be there at the end of these things,” Bell said following his victory.
“I keep watching all these races where the fastest car doesn’t always win. No secret that road courses have not been our strength this year.
“We were just there at the right time. We obviously weren’t in position to win (before taking tyres). We rolled the dice, gambled, and it paid off for us.”
Larson admits elimination was his own doing
While disappointed Hendrick Motorsports’ Larson admitted he hasn’t had the best of seasons and accepted the outcome citing the number of mistakes he’s made over the course of the year.
“I just made way too many mistakes all year long,” Larson said following the result.
“Made another one today. Ultimately cost us an opportunity to go chase another championship.
“Just extremely mad at myself. I let the team down a number of times this year, and let them down in a big way today.”
Briscoe sneaks into the Round of 8
The other driver who found himself on the right side of fortune was Stewart-Haas Racing driver Chase Briscoe.
Briscoe was outside of the top 20 when the race restarted on lap 111, but was able to take advantage of a combination of factors including a spin by Austin Cindric, and some resolute defending form his teammate Cole Custer, with Briscoe, ultimately finishing ninth and advancing to the next round of the playoffs.
“I had no idea we were even going to have a shot (on the final restart),” Briscoe said after the race.
“Truthfully, I knew we were probably out. I saw the 2 (Cindric) wreck, I thought maybe there’s still a chance.
“We had so much fresher tyres than anybody. (Crew chief) Johnny (Klausmeier) pumped them way up to qualifying pressures, let me go attack, have the ball in my hands.”
The championship picture
The other drivers eliminated from the Round of 12 were Penske driver Cindric, Trackhouse’s Daniel Suarez, and Hendrick Motorsports‘ Alex Bowman.
The drivers joining Bell in the Round of 8 playoffs are Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, William Byron, Ross Chastain, and Briscoe
Bank of America Roval 400 Top 10 Results
|1||Christopher Bell||Joe Gibbs Racing||2:59’54.010|
|2||Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing||+1.790|
|3||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing||+1.976|
|4||A.J. Allmendinger||Kaulig Racing||+3.136|
|5||Justin Haley||Kaulig Racing||+4.635|
|6||Chris Buescher||RFK Racing||+4.974|
|7||Bubba Wallace||23XI Racing||+5.442|
|8||Tyler Reddick||Richard Childress Racing||+6.839|
|9||Chase Briscoe||Stewart-Haas Racing||+6.973|
|10||Austin Dillion||Richard Childress Racing||+8.329|